Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Business Model of Quackery

It's fair to say that most of the users and proponents of quackery (however misguidedly) believe completely and wholeheartedly in their brand of snakeoil. Hence, to question it is to question their core values and core beliefs, which can result in a fruitless tirade of firmly held but empty arguments.

That aside, what about the business aspect? For instance, international seller of homeopathic sugar-pills, Boiron are expecting 2008 sales of about €500 million. Does everyone in the company wholeheartedly believe in homeopathy? Perhaps it is a tickbox on the application form?

It's fair to say a loose-moralled sceptic could easily start selling pills to homeopaths (they won't be able to distinguish them, so why bother with the theatre?) - hey, go the whole hog and buy some shares in Tate & Lyle while you are at it.

I've written before about Artrosilium. The proof-free silica-containing gel purportedly for arthritis has been slapped by the ASA (here) while under C.I. Research, Jersey. After a brief trip to Guernsey, the product is being "distributed" by Intramed Ltd in Switzerland, according to the Artrosilium website.

Bear in mind, Artrosilium had already been put on the MHRA list of products not allowed to be marketed in the UK - see here, page 61.

The site has a page cached on Artrosilium which provides the name Dominic Phipps, which leads to MatDom Web Design, possibly the worst website ever encountered. The Portfolio page has all manner of fun and quackery in it including an expert guide on how to "Talk to Your Cat" and one on how to Make your body invulnerable to disease. The latter of these websites has Artrosilium pedlar, Intramed Ltd, as the

From the Artrosilium site there is a link to The Micro Doctor which claims to make you "100% pain free in less than two weeks" with a price reduction from just under £300 to less than £100. Surely a bargain! MHRA are investigating it as we speak.

So, we have a number of dubious products, all websites by one person, and a link to a company called Intramed Ltd in Switzerland. What they need is a site which collates all these bits of quackery and promotes them accordingly. Step up Dr Bruce, or The People's Doctor. Whether or not Dr B is real, I have no idea, but I am glad he is no longer practicing as a GP. His website is also registered by MatDom and (surprise, surprise) is very positive about products such as Artrosilium, The MicroDoctor and other similar 'treatments'. So of course as Dr Bruce is not selling anything (just heavily promoting) he doesn't need to provide details of location, address, registration etc, anymore than I do to write this blog. He is free to promote the Pain Away Pen to his heart's content.

But if Dr Bruce is not selling, just promoting, then there needs to be a shop where people can hand over their disposable income. (As one folklore conman said "If the customer is going to spend their money on quack nonsense, they may as well spend it on mine.")

2 sites seem to fit the bill: - Registered to Intramed Ltd, Switzerland
- one of the pages proudly displayed on MatDom's website.

Health & Harmony, which is a surprisingly large site given that their strapline is "searching the world for natural remedies that work", seem quite happy to sell Artrosilium, despite MHRA blacklisting, ASA wrist slapping etc etc.

Oh look, Windsor products also sell the MicroDoctor, although at a cheaper original price than The Microdoctor site. It turns out they are based in Romsey, and indeed hold stock of device in UK - I'll be sure to let the MHRA know.

All of these sites, such as the Pain and Brain Formula, Artrosilium, TheMicroDoctor, LiverPure tonic, Balsam of the Samurai (in fact there is a list of them here) all direct the buyer to, which looks like a definite misnomer - try this. I'd be very wary of putting details into such a shoddy looking site - I wanted to for the sake of journalistic investigation, but ...nah.

So there you have it. The full Business Model of Quackery - get a raft of incredulous ly nonsensical products, hire a webbuddy to put up the cheapest possible websites for all of them, get an allegedly ex-GP in Spain to pimp your products to the hilt, collate all the products together in one or two e-shops and direct everybody through the same the website to pay.

Between me and you, it is my suggestion that (possibly unlike the pedlars of homeopathic sugar pills) the good people of Intramed Ltd, Switzerland do not wholeheartedly believe in their products and are an operation designed purely and cynically to extract as much money from simple but well meaning people for products Intramed know are bogus.

It's just a hunch, you understand.

EDIT: Read a brief US exchange discussing Artrosilium's dodgy-ness here.

EDIT (15/9/08): IntraMed have once again been censured by the ASA for their product Ginkgo Biloba. Same old nonsense.


  1. Bill Sinclair, EdinburghJuly 11, 2008 at 5:28 PM

    The Microdoctor is not only an internet scam. I have received through the post a piece of unsolicited mail which assumes I am an idiot with more money than sense, or someone so riddled with pain that I will try anything that claims to offer relief.
    It claims to "Heal any muscular or joint pain and discomfort within minutes of application!"
    And it doesn't just "turn off the pain signal to your brain" as TENS does, but will "actually treat the cause of pain" by speedily regenerating damaged cells.
    A good rule of thumb when evaluating this kind of promotional literature is to count the exclamation marks.
    If there is even one, bin it.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Bill.

    I'd be really interested in getting hold of that unsolicited mail, please. Is there any way you can scan it in, or post it to me?



  3. Hello

    I work for a UK charity and I am doing some reserach into the background to these products and the people who produce them. I would be very interested in speaking to people who have information or experience of them.
    01264 321976

  4. Hi
    A couple of weeks ago my mother sent off for a sample of Atrosilium (I'm not sure whether she'd seen an ad for it in a newspaper or she had been mailed the ad as she also has the pain-relief pen). A few days ago she received a phone call from someone claiming that if she ordered over the telephone - there and then - she could have an extra tube, free! The advert was offering, I think, 150 ml of Atrosilium at the BARGAIN price of £90! A knock down from about £140. The guy making the phone call asked for her bank details. Fortunately my mother still has her wits about her and would not give him details over the phone. Surely this is a sign of company with absolutely no morals?

  5. Jean (wales)

    Thank you for this information - I'm checking it out for a rather elderly lady who received unsolicited mail about this porduct

    Keep up the good work

  6. I have used ARTROSILIUM for a few months now and so has my 88yr old mother and the product is BLOODY MARVELLOUS. My mother is now out of her wheel chair thanks to it and has got her life back. I am also pain free as are all my friends and family who use it. The offer Andrea Aug 20 2008 is taking about is not one 150ml tube for £90 but 6 tubes plus one free which works out at £12.86 each tube. GET YOUR FACTS RIGHT IF YOU ARE GOING TO COMPLAIN ABOUT A PRODUCT. I'm not some air head who believes everything she reads I'm a LECTURER specializing in Natural Medicine Research. I have absolutely no links to the company at all, I simply believe in trying a product for myself before condemning it.

  7. Microdoctor can do NO wrong by me. After 2 years of intense physio,acupuncture,ultrasound,injections on my troublesome achilles tendons,I had all but given up hope of being able to exercise again. I ordered M.D with much trepidition,but as nothing else had worked I thought that I had nothing to loose. 3 weeks down the track I am exercising again, and the pain is all but gone. Say what you want about it, I am convinced, and agree with the last poster. It is a bloody marvellous product!

  8. Thanks Anonymous.

    Due to your anonymity, your comments are irrelevant.

    I understand why some bloggers automatically delete 'anon' comments.

    Probably agents from the company.

    Anon = lose


  9. o.k. my name is Liz, I live in Tasmania, and I have nothing to do with Microdoctor, but I did write the blog above about my achilles tendons. So now I have given up my anonymity are my comments still irrelevant??

  10. Dear Dr T
    I have I thnk fallen for a scam via Dr Bruce.
    I received an email from him promoting Artro400 for arthritis relief.
    A link opened the website where the pills were offered with a money back guarentee.
    I ordered and received the pills which 'seemed' to work so I ordered a further supply for £150
    Needless to say this time the pills did not arrive.
    When I tried to email the company at it could not be delivered.
    I tried to get an alternative email address from Dr Bruce but he has not even acknowledged my three emails.
    I chanced upon your site whilst searching for who linked to the email I received from Artro400
    I see no way of retrieveing my money but I wish to make other people aware of this potential scam

  11. Ha Ha!

    Been sat here for a couple of verifying the fantastic claims of this Microdoctor. I never hand over cash for anything that I can't cross reference. None of the so called testomonies checked out. I mean hospitals use it, Er what hospitals use it? That one in Interlaken, me thinks maybe one member of staff has a finger in a mud pie! Nice but boring vid on Youtube casually mentioning a lot of David Beckham. News for the idiots that forged that one, ITV and Discovery Channel film in widescreen not crappy home video 5:4 aspect ratio lol. Of course no peer reviewed scientific papers of any sort.

    Backtraced the mentioned sites above in question, found nice connections between them:D Then I found your site! Sadly they have my email address, but happily it's my junk email address, so it's forthcoming unsolicitored crap will join the rest, so no worries :D

    Milly :)

  12. I suffer from arthritis and found methylsulfonylmethane or MSM. Took it in the morning in conjunction with glucosamine, and by the afternoon, I was pain free.

    Bob HG

  13. Hi. Can anyone tell me anything truly honest and unbiased anout MicroDoctor please ? My wife has been in a lot of pain for many years, and all medications, TENS etc have failed to help her. I would do anything to help get her out of the agony she is in most of her life

  14. >Liz of Tasmania: Strange how Dr*t dismissed you when his own "Complete profile" says: "Who I am is largely irrelevant". What an unhelpful and arrogant person (s)he seems to be. Phil of Australia,

    >John of Eastleigh: After 77 years seeking truth, it seems that the only thing which ever works, is the one the patient actually believes will work. Phil of Australia,